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Clearing the name of Alice Young

(WPBN/WGTU)--A northern Michigan woman was researching family history when she stumbled upon a shocking discovery.

Her grandmother, ten times removed, was accused of witchcraft in Connecticut in the 17th Century.

Now Morgan Kelsey is working to clear the name of Alice Young.

Morgan loves family history-- the walls of her farmhouse kitchen are adorned with sepia-toned photographs.

In that way, she takes after her father who had traced their family back to the 1600's and the Connecticut colony.

He passed away last May.

It was while Morgan was continuing his work that she discovered something unexpected-- a connection to the first witchcraft trials in Colonial America.

"It made me feel upset, it made me feel sad," said Morgan. "But then it also made me feel stronger because it kind of made me think, hey, I think I'm a lot like her."

The "her" is Alice Young.

Born in England around 1600, records show Alice and her husband bought land in Windsor in 1641.

Six years later, Alice was accused of witchcraft.

She was hanged on May 26, 1647, at the site of what is now the old state house in Hartford.

Alice Young was the first person to be executed for witchcraft in the American colonies.

"My heart dropped. My husband was home at the time and I probably was shaking," said Morgan. "And I'm like, oh my God I don't believe this. Her name is right here and not only does it say she was accused of witchcraft, but that she was hanged… and at the top of the list. So it took me quite a while to kind of come down from that space of going, Whoa, this is really, really powerful stuff."

The circumstances of the charges against Alice Young are a mystery.

"It's hard to know for sure, but she was alive and in the midst of a flu epidemic that swept through town in 1647… and she might have been a healer in the town as well. So she may have been blamed because of that. People thought, well you helped us in the past and now people are dying, maybe it's because of witchcraft that all these people have died," said Author Beth Corso.

"Essentially it was a women's holocaust," said Morgan. "Six generations of children watched their mothers be persecuted."

Tony Griego has been researching the 11 victims of Connecticut's witchcraft trials for more than a decade.

He and Caruso led efforts to clear Alice Young's name.

On February 6, Windsor's Town Council voted on a resolution addressing two woman hanged for witchcraft.

"When they came to me about what can we do to right that wrong, I took their intelligence and their work and their passion and I brought it to the Town Council here and ultimately we got the town to acknowledge that what we did was wrong," said Mayor of Windsor Donald Trinks.

The resolution passed unanimously and reads in part:

"Both Alice Young and Lydia Gilbert, residents of Windsor, lost their lives during the colonial witch hysteria, will have their good names restored in the town of Windsor."

"We never really wore it as a badge of honor that we hanged two Windsor residents in the 1600's, but I didn't think anybody really had any idea what they could do about it," said Donald Trinks.

"But I think it's about intolerance," said Historian Tony Griego. "Those eleven people that were executed were different. They were considered the "others". And some of them got caught-up in things that were just unnecessary."

For Morgan, a mother to a 5-year-old daughter, the resolution will soon be framed and join those photos on her farmhouse wall.

"This piece of paper will be an amazing piece of history for her to have when she is old enough to understand what all of that means," said Morgan. "It feels like it symbolizes hope for our future today and for healing wrongs that were done in the past, which I think in a way heals all of us collectively. It's not only about Alice Young,."

"And I hope that their family can be a little more at peace and I hope Alice can rest in peace," said Donald Trinks. "Historically I think we've set the door to be opened for other towns that did this and maybe they can do the same thing and maybe state-wide we can get the state to acknowledge that it was wrong."

"I think I'll always be referring back to it. And really holding that piece of history, and holding Alice, in my heart," said Morgan.

There is so much more to this story.

When Alice Young was hanged in 1647, her daughter, also named Alice, was just 7 years old.

Thirty years later, the younger Alice would also be accused of witchcraft, although she would avoid execution.

A gathering is planned for this coming May 26 in Windsor to remember Alice Young and others who suffered a similar fate in Colonial Connecticut.

The 370 anniversary of Alice's hanging.

May 26 will also mark one year since Morgan's father passed away.

Morgan plans to be in Windsor to honor both Alice and her dad whose research brought them together.

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